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The Gift Of Being A Doctor: “What Are You Going To Do With It?”

I’m going to do something unusual: Reprint in its entirety a commentary from a fourth-year medical student, Jonathan. He posted it in response to comments from other readers to my blog about Dr. Berwick’s commencement address to his daughter’s medical school class.

I tweeted about Jonathan’s post, calling it a needed voice of idealism at a cynical time. This is what Jonathan had to say to his physician colleagues:

“To begin, I am a fourth-year medical student going into primary care and this directly applies to me. We have two options when reading [Dr. Berwick's] address. We can take, in my opinion, the weak road or the strong road. Our new generation, as well as the one that raised us, is one of apathy and selfishness. We are only concerned about how changes affect us. We have lost the sacrifice and the consideration of our patients and fellow staff. This address, no matter how hard your heart may be, springs up a humanism in you that is undeniable. You can choose to brush it off and make excuses about policies and money, or you can stand up and be the physician that is described. I agree that there are a lot of issues in medicine today (billing, paperwork, bureaucracy to name only a few). However, if those issues render you cold and uncaring, my friend, I strongly suggest you find another profession. This profession is one of nobility. It is one of selfLESSness. This is a high calling. A good book states, ‘To whom much has been given; much will be expected.’ Well, if you are a physician, much has been given to you. What are you going to do with it?”

Today’s question: How would you answer Jonathan?

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Doctor: What’s In A Name?

My friend and fellow blogger David Kroll just wrote an interesting post about the use of “doctor” as a title for a wide range of expertise, including medical. The discussion reminded me of the usual misunderstandings associated with my title…

Typical Val conversation with lay strangers:

Dr. Val: “Hello, I’m Dr. Jones…”

Person: “Oh, hi Dr. Jones. What kind of doctor are you?”

Dr. Val: “A medical doctor.”

Person: “Oh, so you’re like, a pediatrician?”

Dr. Val: “No, my specialty is rehabilitation medicine.”

Person: “Oh, my uncle has a drug problem. He’s been in and out of rehab for years. I’m so glad that there are people like you willing to help addicts.”

Dr. Val: “Uh… Well, actually my specialty is focused on physical rehabilitation – like patients with spinal cord injuries, amputations, strokes, car accidents, etc…”

Person: “Oh, so you’re a physical therapist?”

Dr. Val: “No, I’m a physician. But I work closely with physical therapists.”

Person: “So you’re a REAL doctor?”

Dr. Val: “Yes, I went to Columbia Medical School…”

Person: “Well, you don’t LOOK like a doctor.” [See example here]

Dr. Val: “Uh… thanks?”


Dr. Val: “Mom, why don’t people believe I’m a medical doctor?”

Dr. Val’s Mother: “Well, you picked an oddball specialty, dear.”

Dr. Val: “What’s oddball about helping the disabled population?”

Dr. Val’s Mother: “Well, you know ‘rehabilitation’ usually conjures up ideas of drug rehab.”

Dr. Val: “Yeah, my specialty has the weakest PR in all of medicine. Nobody knows what we do.”

Dr. Val’s Mother: “At least people don’t think you’re a hypnotist.”

Dr. Val: “What?”

Dr. Val’s Mother: “Did I ever tell you about the time I was on an elevator with someone at a Spanish literature convention?”

Dr. Val: “Uh…”

Dr. Val’s Mother: “My tag said ‘Dr. Sonia Jones, member of the American Association of Hispanists.’ A woman in the elevator with me was staring at my name tag and finally blurted: ‘Are you here with the convention?’ And I said, ‘yes.’ And then she responded: ‘Could you hypnotize me too?!’”

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